I think I’ve mentioned this tip to quite a few of you before but it bears repeating because it’s so effective. Using colour can enhance the brain’s ability to categorise and store information. Basically, the way your memory works is to store information as chunks. Try to memorise this sequence of 15 letters:
C T A B T A R T A H T A P G I.
How many attempts did it take you to memorise it completely?
The information is more easily remembered if you notice that it is made up of 4 repeated sequences, each slightly different from each other. The fifth group of 3 letters is different from the rest. It’s easier to remember the letters if you divide them up into 5 ‘chunks’: CTA BTA RTA HTA PGI.
This is what psychologists call ‘chunking’. It’s even more useful if the information carries some meaning or association for you. For example, the letters are much easier to recall if they are arranged like this:
CAT BAT RAT HAT PIG
The words are chunks of information that have meaning so are easier to store in your long term memory which is the goal of revision. You want to move information contained in the exam specification from your short term memory to your permanent, long term memory.
Instead of a sequence of 15 meaningless letters you’ve now got 5 simple words to remember.
How can you apply this knowledge to your revision techniques?
Look at the picture on the left. Using coloured notes or pieces of paper to organise your revision notes is a good way of chunking the information into easy to remember, bitesize groups. Using the coloured sticky notes gives the information a context that can help you to memorise it.
Dividing the information up onto the sticky notes also means that you have to think about the information and how it should be best organised before you write it down. This is called processing. The more you process the information the more likely you are to remember it.
If you can colour code the information so that it relates to your revision book then your brain makes an association between the colour, the information and the context the information is in.
This is a really powerful technique. Even if it doesn’t sound like your kind of thing please give it a go. It’s certainly easier to sit with a book and ‘read through it’ which is a commen statement I’ve heard when talking to students about revision but revision shouldn’t be easy. If it doesn’t feel like hard work then your brain isn’t forming the neural circuits it needs to store information over a long term.